MLB Power Rankings: Rating the 25 Starting Pitchers of the AL Central

Joseph Fafinski@Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: Rating the 25 Starting Pitchers of the AL Central

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 26, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The American League Central Division is filled with very good starting pitchers.

    Starting pitchers can obviously determine where a team goes in the postseason, or if they even go at all.

    The Minnesota Twins are looking to three-peat, and they bring back the exact same rotation that they sported during the 2010 season, resigning everybody necessary to make a deep run.

    The same can be said about the Chicago White Sox, who were the last AL Central team to win the title when they did so back in 2006.

    The Detroit Tigers signed a few key pitchers and look to be in the hunt this season.

    The Cleveland Indians are full of young and inexperienced starters who more than likely have something to prove this year.

    The best starter of 2010 and years past, Zack Greinke, packed his bags and headed for Milwaukee, deserting and therefore depriving the Kansas City Royals and the AL Central of its' best ace.

    I will take a look at all 25 of the starters for the 2011 season, give a short analysis on each, and rank them from first all the way to 25th.

    I hope you enjoy and I would love some constructive feedback!

25. Sean O'Sullivan, Royals

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 30:  Starting pitcher Sean O'Sullivan #37 of the Kansas City Royals warms-up just prior to the start of the game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 30, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Ge
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    In 2009, Sean O'Sullivan pitched a no-hitter-- for the AAA Salt Lake Bees.

    Then last season he was traded to the Royals and became a spot starter.

    The Royals expect the 23-year old O'Sullivan to lower his career 5.57 ERA as he takes over full-time as the fifth starter.

24. Josh Tomlin, Indians

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Josh Tomlin #43 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 8, 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    As a 25-year old rookie, Josh Tomlin showed some flashes of greatness for the Cleveland Indians.

    He went 6-4 and posted a 4.56 ERA. The Texas Tech product needs to go deeper into games to rank higher on this list, although he did go the distance in one contest in 2010.

23. Vin Mazzaro, Royals

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 29:  Vin Mazzaro #54 of the Oakland Athletics throws against the Texas Rangers on July 29, 2010 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Vin Mazzaro joins the Kansas City Royals as their fourth starter entering their 2011 campaign.

    The 6'3", 210-pound Mazzaro showed potential by going 6-8 with a decent 4.25 ERA for the Oakland Athletics.

    Involved in the David DeJesus trade, Mazzaro needs to improve upon his career WHIP of 1.57 to find success in KCMO, and in lowering that clip he will find success.

    He is my pick for surprise starter of the AL Central, despite being ranked 23rd out of 25th on this list.

    The sky is the limit for this hard-throwing righty.

22. Phil Coke, Tigers

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 23: Phil Coke of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 23, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Phil Coke played the 2010 season as a key reliever in the Tigers' bullpen, holding 17 games.

    The southpaw has moved on to a starting role, something he has only done once in 158 career games he has entered.

    It will be interesting to see how Coke reacts to such a transition, and I can see him winning eight games if healthy this year.

21. Carlos Carrasco, Indians

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Carlos Carrasco #59 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 6, 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Entering the 2007 season, Carlos Carrasco was named as the 41st best prospect in all of the major leagues.

    Four years later, we are unable to validate any sort of success for the Venezuelan-born Carrasco, as he has compiled just a 2-6 record with a 5.51 ERA as a starting pitcher.

    He enters 2011 with something to prove as the Indians' fourth starter.

20. Jeff Francis, Royals

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 13:  Starting pitcher Jeff Francis #26 of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on September 13, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Jeff Francis currently holds the fourth slot in the Royals' rotation, and the only reason he is third among their starters on this list has to do with experience.

    He has seven years in the bigs, something no other Kansas City starter can say. He is also the oldest of the bunch, at the "elderly" age of 29.

    He has to lower his ERA from last year (five on the dot) in order to have successful transition from Colorado to the AL Central.

19. Nick Blackburn, Twins

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    OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 06:  Nick Blackburn #53 of the Minnesota Twins pitches against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 6, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Nick Blackburn currently holds the fifth spot in the Twins' rotation, but there is no certain way to maintain that place in the lineup.

    After another mediocre season where Blackburn went 10-12 with a 1.46 WHIP, it might be time to hand the reigns over to youngster Brian Duensing.

    To be truthful, a .302 career batting average against isn't going to keep that spot. Likewise, neither is giving up a home run nearly every seven innings you pitch.

18. Jake Peavy, White Sox

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 25: Starting pitcher Jake Peavy #44 of the Chicago White Sox delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field on June 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 6-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Image
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Why is Jake Peavy so low on this list?

    More so than performance, uncertainty takes a role. 

    Peavy had a great career in San Diego, going to three All-Star Games, winning the Cy Young in 2007, a year he seemingly worked over the entire National League.

    But it isn't 2007 anymore.

    Four seasons and just 26 victories later, Peavy isn't necessarily expected to do great things in his first full season donning the black and white uniform.

17. Mitch Talbot, Indians

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    NEW YORK - MAY 31:  Mitch Talbot #51 of the Cleveland Indians looks on against the New York Yankees on May 31, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  Yankees defeat the Indians 11-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Mitch Talbot posted 10 wins and a 4.41 ERA during the 2010 season, and became the third starter in the Indians' rotation.

    It was his first full season as a starter, and Talbot gave the team a reason to hope he can perform well throughout the 2011 season.

    The Cedar City, Utah native has to produce quickly if he wants to be a mainstay in Cleveland's long term plans.

16. Justin Masterson, Indians

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 07:  Justin Masterson #63 of the Cleveland Indians pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the first inning at Angel Stadium on September 7, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Justin Masterson has gone 7-20 in the last 18 months.

    Ouch.

    The Kingston, Jamaica native needs that being a fireballer also means that you need to limit walks. In 180 innings pitched, 73 batters found a free pass to first base.

    Masterson needs to find a way or two to start winning soon, otherwise Cleveland might quickly take over last place in the AL Central.

15. Kyle Davies, Royals

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    NEW YORK - JULY 24: Kyle Davies of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 24, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Kyle Davies has to lower his .354 on-base percentage allowed from last year. He just has to.

    In order to become a real number two starter in a rotation, the 27-year old Georgia native needs to fix his game completely. 80 walks in 183 innings is just unacceptable.

    On the bright side though, he only posted 12 defeats last year.

14. Scott Baker, Twins

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 09:  Scott Baker #30 of the Minnesota Twins throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during Game Three of the ALDS part of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 9, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by A
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Scott Baker is what I as a baseball fan would call an odd pitcher.

    Going into the 2009 season, Baker was hands down the ace of the Twins. However, even after a good season, where he posted a 15-9 record, Baker was thrown into the third slot last year.

    Despite another decent year, where a dozen victories and 148 strikeouts were in order, Baker slipped down another spot in the rotation, this time being passed up by Kevin Slowey.

    He is coming off arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October, and if he is good to go he should be the third or fourth guy on manager Ron Gardenhire's list.

13. Luke Hochevar, Royals

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    BALTIMORE - JULY 30:  Starting pitcher Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals delivers against the Baltimore Orioles during MLB action at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 30, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. Hochevar collected the loss as the Orioles
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Easily the AL Central (and maybe the MLB's) weakest ace, Luke Hochevar comes into 2010 with a lot to prove to the fans (if there are any left) of Kansas City.

    At the blink of an eye in early January, Zack Greinke left town and Hochevar was the de facto Opening Day starter.

    Hochevar posted a 6-6 record last season before heading to the DL in June.

    He must lower his opponents' batting average on the road from the mediocre .301 he posted last season. He also must lower his career 5.60 ERA in order to for the Royals to have any chance of winning anything in 2011.

12. Brad Penny, Tigers

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    JUPITER, FL - MARCH 10:  Starting pitcher Brad Penny #33 of the St Louis Cardinals pitches against the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium on March 10, 2010 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    While the 6'4" Brad Penny isn't dating attractive women, he is throwing nasty stuff down Broadway.

    The oft-injured Penny has a World Series ring, 108 career victories, and two All-Star selections to his name. This offseason he signed a one-year, three million dollar contract with the Tigers, and he will be expected to bring his excellent control to pitch among the AL Central's best.

    If Penny is healthy all season long 12 wins is not out of the question. 

11. Edwin Jackson, White Sox

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Edwin Jackson #33 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 22, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Edwin Jackson and his talents have bounced all over the place, wearing five different uniforms in eight seasons.

    The German-born Jackson made a household name for himself last June when he no-hit his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He allowed nine baserunners in the game, an unusually high count for a no-no, as well as throwing 149 pitches, also unusual.

    He went 10-12 and fanned 181 batters last season, but I expect these numbers to jump in his first full season in a White Sox uniform. One thing he must do better is limiting his walks, as 78 batters took first base after watching four balls go by.

    Jackson has All-Star talent, and Chicago will be happy to see him win more than a dozen games this year if he is healthy.

10. Rick Porcello, Tigers

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    DETROIT - MAY 12:  Rick Porcello #48 of the Detroit Tigers reacts after the final out in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees during the game on May 12, 2010 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    At the youthful age of 20, Rick Porcello was a rookie sensation. He and his nasty sinker sported a 14-9 record, a 1.34 WHIP, and a 3.96 ERA.

    Surely, only good things would follow in 2010, right? 

    Wrong.

    Porcello took a step backward with a 10-12 record and a noticable rise in WHIP (1.49) and ERA (4.92) in four fewer starts.

    If we see the Rick Porcello we witnessed in 2009, expect a top five position next season for the 22-year old from Jersey.

9. Kevin Slowey, Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 30:  Kevin Slowey #59 of the Minnesota Twins pitches in the second inning against the Detroit Tigers during their game on June 30, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Like teammate Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey is also an odd case.

    He had a pedestrian 4.45 ERA in 2010, yet had an incredible 13-6 record, seventh best in the AL in terms of winning percentage.

    2009 was no different, as Slowey had a mediocre-to-poor 4.86 ERA, but an astounding 10-3 record in just 16 starts.

    Maybe the Twins decide to hit their best only when Slowey pitches.

    Whatever it is, his solid winning percentage and the fact that he gave up less than one walk per start (29 walks, 30 starts) last season lands him a position in the lower tier of the top 10.

8. Gavin Floyd, White Sox

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 29: Starting pitcher Gavin Floyd #34 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field on August 29, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Ima
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Gavin Floyd has been one of the winningest pitchers over the last three seasons, totalling 38 to go with 32 losses.

    Floyd, a 6'6" tower from Annapolis, has learned to overcome his biggest weakness, which previously was giving up a lot of home runs. Over the past two years he has cut the 30 number he gave up in '08 to a nifty 14 this past season.

    He is under contract for the next three years, and you can bet he will be a mainstay among the AL Central's best starters.

7. Fausto Carmona, Indians

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 8:  Pitcher Fausto Carmona #55 of the Cleveland Indians unknowingly wears a paper cup stuck to his hat put there by teammates as a prank during the game with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 8, 2010 at Angel Stadium i
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Fausto Carmona has had one of the strangest career paths I have ever seen in baseball.

    The epitome of inconsistent, Carmona has posted records of 1-10, 19-8, 8-7, 5-12, and 13-14 throughout his career. 

    The 18-win improvement from 2006 to the following year is one of the best single season turnarounds ever. He had 10 losses in just 74 innings in '06, then posted just eight (with 19 wins) in over 210 innings of work the next season.

    Last season he went 13-14, got elected to the All-Star Game, and posted a 3.77 ERA. I expect similar things this season, and Carmona will remain the ace on this weak pitching staff.

6. John Danks, White Sox

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    CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 14: Starting pitcher John Danks #50 of the Chicago White Sox follows through after delivering the ball against of the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on September 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Im
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    John Danks has 46 career victories, an impressive statistic especially when you note that he will turn just 26 during the third week of the season.

    Danks went 15-11 in 2010, putting him in a tie for 10th among AL pitchers in wins.

    A strikeout master, Danks also was ninth in the AL in innings pitched, with 213 on the dot.

    I could see him potentially being an All-Star come July, and he may not be the only one from the White Sox rotation.

5. Max Scherzer, Tigers

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 16:  Max Scherzer #37 of the Detroit Tigers flips the ball to first base for an out against the New York Yankees on August 16, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Max Scherzer had himself a solid 2010 season, going 12-11, disappointing considering his ERA was a stellar 3.50.

    Scherzer's main strength has to do with the fact that he makes batters whiff left and right, and he was 11th in the AL with 184 K's.

    An interesting fact had to do with Scherzer doing better on the road, allowing just a .238 batting average, while posting a batting averaging that was 13 higher when he played in Detroit.

    A former Mizzou Tiger, Scherzer needs to limit his walks allowed, as he let 70 men get to first base on balls last year.

4. Carl Pavano, Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 07:  Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates after the third out in the first inning against the New York Yankees during game two of the ALDS on October 7, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Elsa/Get
    Elsa/Getty Images

    When it was announced last week that Carl Pavano and his mustache were taking their talents back to Target Field, Twins nation went into a frenzy and were once again favorites in the division.

    The 35-year old signed a two-year contract with the Twins.

    Pavano went 17-11 in 2010, and led the American League in shutouts and complete games, with two and seven respectively.

    The reason he is fourth on this list has to with his durability. He was also sixth in the AL in innings pitched with 221.

    Hopefully that facial hair of his will help him rock Target Field for at least the next two seasons.

3. Francisco Liriano, Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 6: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game one of the ALDS against the New York Yankees on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Francisco Liriano finally returned to his 2006 self with a solid campaign last year.

    After going 5-13 in 2009, Liriano and his fireball went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA, and finished fifth in the AL in strikeouts, fanning 201 batters in the process. He also was the winner of April 2010's Pitcher of the Month.

    One thing the hard-throwing southpaw needs to work on is his durability. I know he underwent Tommy John three years ago, but he still needs to control himself throughout a full game. He has yet to finish a complete game. He is, in essence, the opposite of fellow starter Carl Pavano.

    His next chance will be on Opening Day, April Fools' Day, at Toronto. 

    Tune in, Twins fans.

2. Mark Buehrle, White Sox

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    BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 05:  Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox reacts after giving up a two run homer to Victor Martinez of the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning on September 5, 2010 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Ima
    Elsa/Getty Images

    At 31 years old, Mark Buehrle is doing his best Cooperstown impression.

    He has posted a 148-110 career record, thrown a no-hitter and a perfect game, won two Gold Gloves, had four All-Star selections, and most importantly a World Series ring.

    He also is the second best pitcher in the AL Central. Even in an off year where he went 13-13, I expect Buehrle to come back and have a great season, as he has done so many times.

    As a Twins fan, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the 11-year veteran, even if he does play for the team that I wish to be winless.

1. Justin Verlander, Tigers

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    ST. PETERSBURG - JULY 27:  Pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on July 27, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    With the departure of Zack Greinke, Tigers ace Justin Verlander unanimously takes the number one spot on this list.

    A 6'5", 225-pound fireballer, Verlander went 18-9 in 2010 to go with 219 strikeouts and a 3.37 ERA. Those are some all-around solid numbers, and he was tied for fourth in the AL in wins.

    Verlander will be expected to propel the Tigers' rotation this season in hopes of catching the White Sox and the Twins.

Analysis

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 29: Manager Ozzie Guillen #13 (L) and Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox enjoy a ceremony retiring former player Frank Thomas' number 35 before a game against the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field on August 29, 2010 in Chicag
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle were clearly happy about something when this picture was taken.

    Maybe it was because they realize that they had won first place on this list!

    Judging by the least amount of points (1 through 25, 5 being the best possible and 125 being the worst possible) the rankings come in as follows:

    1. Chicago White Sox, 45 points

    2. Minnesota Twins, 49 points

    3. Detroit Tigers, 50 points

    4. Cleveland Indians, 85 points

    5. Kansas City Royals, 96 points

    I hope you enjoyed this slide show and I would love some constructive feedback!